Grand Theft Auto V is an unnecessarily violent facsimile of your boring life

I haven’t got to that torture bit yet, nor have I encountered a massive amount of misogyny in Grand Theft Auto V at this point. I won’t talk about that sort of thing anyway, because disgust/outrage often goes hand in hand with serious criticism of games at the minute, and I’ve proven time and time again that I’m not interested in - nor capable of - serious criticism at this stage in my life. That isn’t to say that I don’t appreciate examining a cultural product within its cultural context. As games become more aligned with mainstream entertainment they will clearly have to answer for their more childish, offensive, violent and sexist preoccupations. These topics need to be discussed, and the people who make games, especially the games aspiring to be - or simply finding themselves - as broadly enjoyed as more established forms of entertainment, need to accept their responsibility and act accordingly. At the same time, however, I think it is far too easy to single out these transgressions, write fifteen hundred words lambasting them, leave it at that and wait for the cheque and/or peer group congratulation ceremony. It’s completely valid, certainly, but it’s also numbingly obvious, and I think that there are already too many people repeating the same core concerns and ideas. They are important concerns, to be sure, but I’m a cynic and so find it terribly hard to believe that every one of these voices comes from an entirely altruistic place. Thus, I will leave this type of discourse to the individuals more suited to or happy to enter into it. They are already doing a good job of it as it is, me joining them isn’t going to speed up the changes that need to occur within the medium.

That out of the way, let us again explore my go-to topics of choice; the missus, video game mechanics and brewed under licence European lager.

To people who aren’t very familiar with video games the GTA series is still a miraculous and, dare I say, exciting entity to witness. To this end, the trappings of a GTA manage to transcend the “I don’t understand/ I don’t care” boundary that normally divides my living room. This is largely because the games are set in post-industrial cities; places that are far more recognisable - certainly relatable - than the landscapes of most of their contemporaries. My girlfriend and I live in North London and spend the vast majority of our lives within the confines of the Greater London sprawl. We live and breathe in a very much living and breathing city. It has often been said that playing a GTA is as close to this experience as video games have thus far managed to achieve. It is the interplay of relatable setting and attention to detail that still perpetuates this image of the series, and what duped my lady friend into sitting on the sofa with me while I played GTA V last weekend.

Neither of us has been to Los Angeles, the city upon which the game’s Los Santos is based, but having lived in another sizeable metropolis - albeit a slightly more attractive one in parts - we can both appreciate that it looks, acts and exists as a pretty accurate representation of the modern city. “So you really can do anything you want, then?” she asked, referencing the bevy of coverage the game received around its launch in the free tube papers. Well, I thought, not strictly speaking. At that particular moment I was hooking my tow truck onto the bumper of an abandoned car, preparing for a lengthy and uninteresting drive back to the impound lot. I suppose I was, at that moment, quite literally doing anything I wanted, albeit within the confines of a tow truck driver’s working day. “Do you have to do this at all, Leigh, could you just drop the car and do something else?” This time she sounded genuinely excited at the prospect of childishly dumping the automobile in the middle of the road, you know, just because we could. “Yes, we could do that, we most certainly could do that my love, but what would be the point? I’ve got Franklin’s crack addicted quasi-relative in the cab with me and I’d quite like to find out what she has to say.

Do I really though, do I really care what she has to say? This character, Tonya, is a broad, damaged, horrible stereotype - as are all the characters in the game, protagonists included - offering up blowjobs and bemoaning her useless crackhead boyfriend. I’m not offended by her, nor incensed by the lack of subtlety in her writing, well a bit, but not massively; I’m just not really that interested full stop. So why do I tow the car across town and then agree do it again straight away? The answer to that is pretty much the same as the answer to the more overarching question; why am I choosing to participate in most of what GTA V has to offer? All these boring activities - whether lawful or otherwise - are still compelling to me because they are grounded within this fantastic sense of place. Driving across the city or the wider map isn’t that dissimilar to ‘the wife’ and I walking around Kensal Green Cemetery looking for the Weeping Angels from Dr Who, or critiquing people’s curtains from the side of the canal. Call me a fantasist but it really isn’t that different.

After a while my better half began to see what ‘being able to do anything’ actually boils down to. Just as Los Santos is a more concise Los Angeles, so too are the game’s interactions a more concise collection of the ones we have available to us in real life. We can walk, drive, cycle, swim (she can’t), run, climb and otherwise cavort all over the State of San Andreas. We could antagonise an officer of the law or rob a shop, get a silly haircut or jump off a bridge. We can’t talk to strangers in the street; a design limitation? No, of course not, no one does that in real life anyway so why ruin the facsimile? We can call up our friends, most of who are usually otherwise engaged at the time; right on point. We can’t get a wide variety of law abiding jobs in LS, but why would we need to when the tow truck one is a pretty accurate representation of most jobs, generally speaking? GTA V, more so than any of the previous games in the series, has a little slice of almost all of the mundanities available to the modern urban dweller. While these slices - unlike the stereotypes that run through them all - aren’t very broad, they are - unlike the stereotypes that run through them all - very representative. GTA V is a little life simulator where you can happily try out a super-specific and limited instance of almost anything you do in your actual, boring life. That, I feel, is its greatest success. Yes, it is vacuous and filled with horrible, horrible people, but so is the real world; I live in London, I already know that.

This sense of GTA V being a tiny world on the Xbox that my girlfriend not only understood, but actually quite liked, came to a lovely head when we pulled off the highway in the mountains. I’d been driving around for no real reason other than to enjoy the views and the selection of radio stations. “There are different radio stations? Oh wow, that’s pretty interesting. And the music is real music, from the real radio? Do other games do that? No, no, they probably don’t.” After a while it was time for a smoke, but instead of pausing the game as I normally do, I left everything running while we had a beer and a cigarette out of my living room window. “This music is fantastic!” she enthused about the dance station, “this game is pretty good, I like it.” I was shocked.

+++

I had yet to show her any of the ‘proper’ game though, and when I did her interest quickly disappeared. You might not have noticed yet, but in the couple of hours we were sitting together up to this point I didn’t elect to use violence once. I get nothing out of rampant violence in video games any more, whether that be because of fatigue or my accelerating maturity. Driving through the mountains or getting fake tattoos done is more my thing today; it’s still escapism after all, it just says a lot about how my personality and interests have changed over the last handful of years. I’m small ‘c’ conservatism all the way these days, apparently.

After going to a big blue letter on the map I found myself playing as the retired thief Michael, a man in his mid-forties who enjoys drinking and smoking and is subsequently my favourite protagonist in the game thus far. Having infiltrated (woken up in) a morgue so I could identify a corpse I had no weapons at my disposal; I was armed only with my cunning. I knocked a worker out in a ‘necessary’ though non-lethal fashion as to remain undetected, and then called my contact to relay my findings. The dead man I had come to find was actually a dead woman on the slab; something had clearly transpired. This building intrigue mattered for nought though, as instead of continuing along my sneaky-sneaky nobody dies today path, I was accosted by two armed guards - while I was still on the phone I might add - and was forced to open fire on them with a swiftly scooped up pistol. It seems I’d misinterpreted the situation completely; I was expecting a bit of the player agency that I’d been enjoying during my time out of missions. The game clearly didn’t want that to be so. Cover blown, I ended up shooting EVERY LAST INDIVIDUAL in the hospital I had woken up in, which turned out to be at least fifteen, probably closer to twenty five, guys.

Most of GTA V thus far has turned out this way. A car chase ends in a gunfight, a meth lab tour ends in a gunfight, a drug deal - gunfight, a motorbike repossession - gunfight, a gun shipment robbery - gunfight (that one makes more sense); the game seems intent on making almost every situation devolve into a gunfight. And not a small scale one, mind, these skirmishes are always sizeable and result in a body count that would whet the appetite of many a human interest story-obsessed journalist. I find this problematic. The default control scheme employs very liberal auto-aim which makes these encounters a trifle to succeed at. Furthermore, all but one of the instances mentioned has taken place indoors, with my enemies being funnelled towards me by corridors and small rooms. There is almost no skill associated with any of these scenarios; they simply exist as something else to do. These mass-killings are as meaningful as a game of darts of a jog on the beach.

This misgiving could entirely be a comment on my current place in life and nothing more, though I really don’t think that to be the case. The early GTA games - especially the 2D ones I’d argue - entirely revolved around the giddy freedom to ‘do anything’. This anything quickly defined itself as wanton violence, but even that - given the unprecedented scale of it at the time - was enough anything for most people. The series itself has proven that video games now offer a much broader range of experiences, however perfunctory they often prove to be, than they did a decade ago. I’d expect that this variety would have permeated the ‘proper game’ aspects of a GTA just as it has the ‘fluffy nonsense’ bits that surround it. That hasn’t happened yet during my time with V. Instead, I now find myself enjoying the mundane over the visceral, the civilised over the controversial and the downright normal-boring over the exciting-boring. It all goes a long way to making me feel a bit lost.

Rockstar has always excelled at building worlds first and foremost, with everything else outside of that core strength being satisfying to different degrees. I hate to draw the comparison between the GTA series and Red Dead Redemption, but it’s the laziest way of making my point. RDR was the first time Rockstar not only successfully created a satisfying world, but also a satisfying game that was deserving enough to take place within it. RDR, for the most part, was pensive, tense, measured and atmospheric. It implemented its violence - which was still everywhere - to much more dramatic effect than GTA V does; it had weight and consequence while V’s just feels obligatory and pervasive.

I used to enjoy the channelled anarchy of the GTA series; its power to cast you as the antihero - just without all the consequences. Now, I’d rather it just replicate my workday commute, take me on a little holiday or allow me to get tattoos - just without all the consequences. Maybe I’ve matured to the point where the violence isn’t interesting any more. Maybe my capacity for imagination has contracted to such an extent that travel, fucking travel, now represents the outer limit of my relationship with escapism and excitement. Or maybe I’m just sad because for all its pointless-yet-compelling mimicking of the horrible, boring lives we all lead, Grand Theft Auto V ultimately devolves into something much less interesting. My girlfriend sees this almost instantly, though she doesn’t say anything. She just stands up and leaves the room.

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Edited by believer258

Pretty good write-up, and despite your introductory paragraph, a decent bit of criticism on its own.

Yatzhee Croshaw, of Zero Punctuation fame, made a note about the linear and choiceless missions in open world games these days. It seems like games along the lines of Dishonored and Deus Ex Human Revolution are more open in their mission structure than GTA ever has been.

To be honest, I'm not really participating in wanton violence in the game either. Oh, sure, I'll run over the occasional pedestrian on purpose, but I generally find myself driving at high speeds down the highway or off-road than I do participating in crazy violence. I get enough of that in the actual missions, which are a hell of a lot more fun when you change it to free-aim. It's not perfect and never will feel right but I've gotten used to it enough to enjoy it.

GTA V is a well-written, funny, odd, interesting game, but I keep coming across tiny little parts where Rockstar just didn't quite grow up enough to make GTA V a masterpiece.

Edited by Flappy

I'm still not sure how this happened, but something attracted me to this post and made me read all of it in the span of about five minutes. It was a nice read that made me reflect on my own playing style, so you get points for getting a reaction out of me. I've been playing GTA and other violent video games since I was 5 years old, so runnin' over pedestrians and gunnin' down people for laughs isn't really my thing anymore. Oddly enough, I prefer to get in the fastest vehicle available to me and drive around at stupid-high speeds for extended periods of time; as a dude that has never enjoyed a racing game not named Burnout, that's just weird to me.

In reality, I find driving to be a chore. Other than giving me some personal time to chill/think about whatever, it's just a method of getting from Point A to Point B. If I could click my heels together and pop up at a friend's doorstep, I'd do it nine times outta ten. Maybe I hit gaming puberty again or something, but I get more enjoyment out of things like basketball, RPGs, good stories, and romance (y'know, simple shit) than anything that CoD/Halo/violence sim #20xx

...

I just rambled like a watered down Uncle Ruckus there, so, uh...yeah. Good job, homie.

We can walk, drive, cycle, swim (she can’t), run, climb and otherwise cavort all over the State of San Andreas.

From one swimmer to another, I think you should teach your girlfriend how to swim. Barring any sort of phobias or something, swimming is pretty awesome.

Edited by Nonused

There's this game I've heard about that I think you will just adore.

It's called Second Life.

But, seriously, awesome write-up. Haven't gotten around to playing GTAV (I'm a lowly PC user by trade), and my interest continues to wane. Rockstar threw so much at this game, from money to talent, and it all seems so...formulaic? It doesn't seem like it tries to be anything more than a GTA game (again, haven't played it; could be wrong), and it's obviously caught between this awkward limbo of GTA IV's grit and South Park's satire. It's safe. And that's not an issue; that's expected. It all just seems a little boring. You saying that everything coalesces into a meaningless firefight only stresses the game's lack of true drive.

Not saying there's anything wrong with mindless, open-world fun. I love SRIV. But even SRIV felt like it had more to say with its parodical narrative than GTAV has to say with...anything. With as much content as there is, I'm led to believe that there are too many voices contributing to the product. There's something to be said about a game's singular voice, and this one seems to be spread so thin. Not necessarily from a resource standpoint but from a design standpoint. And, again, it doesn't really have to say anything. It's just...if the gameplay devolves into old-school GTA gunfights surrounded by fun, dress-up time window dressing, you'd better make sure that gunplay is exhilarating. Or that the dresses are stunning.

Edited by Turambar

Very good write up.

Video games are escapist outlets for me as well I too have felt the impact of any displays of violence (particularly ones as 'normal' as gunfights and fist fights) less and less interesting as time goes on. Perhaps it is something that our real world has an over abundance of? Where games succeed and hook me are when they become vehicles of exploration, allowing for a look at a vastly different world or society that holds a lingering reminder of our own while staying, as you say, consequence free in our inhabitance of them.

Posted by Demoskinos

I can get people wanting to interact with games in other ways but bemoaning violence in a game that is a unapologetic boilerplate crime drama is downright absurd. Its like showing up to a gourmet burger shop and being mad when they dont have a chicken sandwich. If you dont want to participate in violence dont play a game that is inherently about bad men in a violent world.

Posted by crithon

probably someone told you this already, but if you miss the old 2D games, you should check out Hotline Miami. It scratches that itch but then also adds the whole retry mechanic that's closer to super meat boy where the punishment doesn't feel as bad when you can just jump back in immediately. At no point the humor is as bad as GTA5 where their best sense of satire is "iFruit". At this point anything scratches that itch better then rockstar games. They make just so poorly designed games.

Posted by Hailinel

I can get people wanting to interact with games in other ways but bemoaning violence in a game that is a unapologetic boilerplate crime drama is downright absurd. Its like showing up to a gourmet burger shop and being mad when they dont have a chicken sandwich. If you dont want to participate in violence dont play a game that is inherently about bad men in a violent world.

The thing is that GTA lets you do any number of activities while you're out and about and not just on missions. There's no impetus to go on stupid violence sprees. I used to actively seek engagement with the police back in my Vice City days and just fuck around that way, but the more options that the game offers, and more realistic the world, the less I'm really inclined to just attack someone on the street just because or seek to piss off the police. In Saints Row, there's that layer of absurdity in everything that still makes wanton acts of violence entertaining, but it's just not as fun as it used to be in GTA. The only times I'm truly violent in the game in any purposeful manner is during missions.

It's great that the major heists, at least, provide certain options. It's possible to complete the jewelry store heist, for example, without killing anyone if you play it the smart way. But otherwise, violence tends to be the order of the day, and while it can be sometimes amusing, it's also tiring. When the primary mode of moving the story forward in a game that let's you otherwise do all sorts of actions is violence, it's hard to really keep caring. It doesn't matter that it's a boilerplate crime drama if the crime drama isn't as compelling a reason to keep playing GTAV as really any other activity that the player can engage in in the game. I've only gotten tot he point where Trevor gets his second safe house and I feel like I've had my fill of the story. I played a few of Trevor's Ramage and Freak missions, and I feel like I've had my fill. I can't must the interest to swap to Michael and keep going and haven't even touched the game since last week. And part of that has to do with the fact that in order to keep moving forward in this giant sandbox that Rockstar created, it's mostly going to be shooting.

Posted by MMMman

@hailinel: Time zones are wonderful things; you've covered pretty much my exact responses to this while I was still asleep, so thanks! It sounds as though you are thoroughly burnt out on the game, which is a little further down the road than I am at the minute, but it looks like we share the same misgivings about the mission design choices. I'm really trying to pinpoint when my tastes changed, because it seems to have just crept up on me to the point where now I'm unsatisfied by most combat-heavy games, or at least the super big budget ones. I seem to remember enjoying, say, MW2 quite a bit at the time, but MW3 made me want to cry. They are really obvious examples, I know, but those games are almost identical - maybe that's part of the problem - so it's easy to plot my waning interest between the two. Maybe I just hate video games now? Surely not quite yet

@demoskinos: It isn't really that the violence exists, per se, but that it is implemented so often as a means to conclude a wide variety of scenarios. I appreciate that I'm playing a game about bad people who do bad things, but at the same time these bad people aren't mass murderers, they are criminals. Video games have always existed - and thrived - upon hyperbole and exaggeration, but there has to be a point of terminal velocity here; things can't simply keep getting more and more ridiculous. As a few of the people before me have already stated; it is not the violence itself, but its increasingly out of place status, that is problematic. As Rockstar have become better and better at making their worlds mirror - in both image and opportunities - our own reality, they have implicitly shortened the distance between the two. In many ways, as I said in my write up, San Andreas is the closest we've yet come to a digital version of the places many of us live in right now. Massive scale violence taking place alarmingly often suddenly breaks this illusion, reminding us that however close to our actual cities and states SA may appear, it is still simply a fabrication. To that end I'm not "bemoaning violence in a game that is a unapologetic boilerplate crime drama", I'm bemoaning violence that is so grand and bombastic that it breaks the otherwise stunningly realised illusion that it takes place within.

Posted by MMMman

@flappy: The driving really fast part is really starting to appeal to me, especially around the countryside parts of the map. I always avoid the motorbikes, but last night I took Franklin up around the North East of the map on a dirt trail along the coast. Oh my, it was both fun and stunningly beautiful, the world design on display in parts of SA is truly spectacular. After that I went on a mission to buy drugs and shot thirty guys on Grove Street. Hmmph, that distinction makes me a bit sad.

On swimming, though; it is pretty fun by itself, but if you throw in a few water slides - then, my friend, we're having a good time. She's spoken about learning a few times in the past, though never got around to it. Could make a good New Year's resolution perhaps?

Edited by Wilshere

Its seems that a lot of people drink wine and then complain that it isn't whisky. Find yourself a copy of Sims and enjoy it. A single game can't cater to everybody's interests.

Edited by joshwent

@mmmman said:

In many ways, as I said in my write up, San Andreas is the closest we've yet come to a digital version of the places many of us live in right now. Massive scale violence taking place alarmingly often suddenly breaks this illusion, reminding us that however close to our actual cities and states SA may appear, it is still simply a fabrication. To that end I'm not "bemoaning violence in a game that is a unapologetic boilerplate crime drama", I'm bemoaning violence that is so grand and bombastic that it breaks the otherwise stunningly realised illusion that it takes place within.

Still though, it seems like you're looking for something the game never intended to give you. The GTA series has never aspired to be a city life simulator. It's about telling a very linear narrative in a world with lots of activities for some fun diversion/exploration, but it all exists at its core to serve the story of the playable character/s. It sounds like you moreso want GTA Online where you can set your own goals, which is fine, but to criticize the core game for its core gameplay seems misguided, even if you are getting something you like out of the trappings.

For example, I don't really like the taste of alcohol. Even when I've had very good cocktails that I've liked, I still usually think, "Man, this would be great, if only it didn't have booze in it." But I would never judge the drink on those grounds because I inherently don't like what it fundamentally is.

Edited by MMMman

@nonused: I'm sure Second Life would be spot on for me, but the social stigma attached to it is just too strong; I don't want to be classified as strange, now do I?

I think you might have got my misgivings spot on in a single sentence where it took me two thousand and odd words; "Rockstar threw so much at this game, from money to talent, and it all seems so...formulaic?"

@wilshere, @joshwent: It seems like a few people have misinterpreted my words; I'm not saying that I'm looking for a violence-free crime game or, God forbid, a Playstation Home-like experience. It's simply that almost every aspect of GTA has gained depth or been expanded upon except how we approach much of the story-based - especially combat orientated - content. The game contains so many ancillary systems - yoga, darts, hunting, strippers etc - for its side activities, that it just seems like a missed opportunity to not have created new ways for players to interact with the action based story content. I'm not looking for emergent gameplay here, I'm just saying that my heart sinks a little when an interesting scenario turns into a gunfight. I'm certainly enjoying the game, don't get me wrong, I'm having a good time with it, it's just a little sad to see the amount of effort that has clearly gone into expanding upon almost every aspect of the game, except the way the player is able to approach combat and violent conflict. Or even just the scale of the conflicts we're thrust into full stop.

Edited by Humanity
@flappy said:

I'm still not sure how this happened, but something attracted me to this post and made me read all of it in the span of about five minutes. It was a nice read that made me reflect on my own playing style, so you get points for getting a reaction out of me. I've been playing GTA and other violent video games since I was 5 years old, so runnin' over pedestrians and gunnin' down people for laughs isn't really my thing anymore. Oddly enough, I prefer to get in the fastest vehicle available to me and drive around at stupid-high speeds for extended periods of time; as a dude that has never enjoyed a racing game not named Burnout, that's just weird to me.

In reality, I find driving to be a chore. Other than giving me some personal time to chill/think about whatever, it's just a method of getting from Point A to Point B. If I could click my heels together and pop up at a friend's doorstep, I'd do it nine times outta ten. Maybe I hit gaming puberty again or something, but I get more enjoyment out of things like basketball, RPGs, good stories, and romance (y'know, simple shit) than anything that CoD/Halo/violence sim #20xx

...

I just rambled like a watered down Uncle Ruckus there, so, uh...yeah. Good job, homie.

We can walk, drive, cycle, swim (she can’t), run, climb and otherwise cavort all over the State of San Andreas.

From one swimmer to another, I think you should teach your girlfriend how to swim. Barring any sort of phobias or something, swimming is pretty awesome.

Seconding the swimming. I learned how to swim when I was in first grade and thought it weird that others didn't know how since it feels so natural. Being an adult now I can see how adult-apprehensions can get the better of someone - as a child I was more than willing to just jump into the deep end without any rational worries like "I can't swim so I could possibly drown." I'm sure if you take her to a quiet pool during off-hours when there aren't any people there and practice in the shallow end she'll pick it up in no time.

There is the end of my pool talk.

Edited by MMMman

@humanity: Two pro-swimming opinions; this is getting too important to ignore! We did go to water-aerobics once which was pretty fun, if a bit too long. The moral being, though, was that she wasn't bothered by the water very much at all. Maybe we'll eventually share a semi-aquatic lifestyle, like a pair of otters.

Edited by joshwent

@mmmman: Okay, that's a much clearer explanation. But you can't hold it against us interpreting you saying that you think the violence is unnecessary... in your blog that says in it's title that GTA V is "unnecessarily violent". ;)

I think the point, though it may be something of an intangible grey area, is the difference between player options and player agency. The GTA series is progressively more and more about options. All of the side stuff you mentioned, the ability to just explore at will, and in GTA V the heists themselves. But as opposed to an RPG where you decide how your player reacts and resolves a situation, GTA explicitly doesn't give you agency to alter the narrative. The role you're playing is a set one, and to be able to alter it would fundamentally change the story they were trying to tell.

That distinction, however nebulous, is an important one because I'd say it's simply a story-telling choice, not a flaw. Which is why I couldn't really understand that aspect of it being criticised, if (as I think it is) the lack of that agency is an important part of the game itself.

Posted by MMMman

@joshwent: That's the problem with trying to summarise lots of words with a punchy, attractive and intriguing - yet at the same time representative - title. I think this time I went punchy to try and make it a little bit contentious in an effort to get people to read 'yet another piece of writing about GTA V'. Apologies if I came across as a bit of a tabloid hack there, my bad.

You are spectacularly right in your distinction between options and agency there and, to be honest, I don't think I've made that distinction myself yet. I think my personal problem is that over the last few years my tastes have changed more considerably than I've been able to come to terms with or even fully recognise. That goes far and above just video games as well, though I suppose I should better stay on topic. Because I'm only coming to terms with this relatively slowly, I'm finding myself less and less interested in the things I once was. It's both convenient and unsettling that video games take so long to be developed, because they simultaneously act as a really good barometer for my interests but also highlight how those interests have changed between single iterations in a series. Some of my fondest memories of games are from 2007/8 and titles like Oblivion, Fallout 3, GTA IV and Bordertands. I was at university, was having a great time and had the capacity to play games quite a lot. I've enjoyed every single one of those games' sequels significantly less than I did the one I played. Of course repetition dulls the enjoyment, but I've changed and so have my life circumstances.

GTA V pretty much represents the final game in a big line of games that has made these changes glaringly apparent. I apologise if it sounds like I'm directly criticising the gunfight-saturation directly, because I really don't have a problem with them in and of themselves. I suppose it all boils down to me having changed while the games I used to relate quite heavily to - certainly enjoyed the most - haven't as much. GTA V is still a massive accomplishment to be sure, but I'm busy putting up new curtains and fertilising my miniature fruit trees - out of choice strangely enough. I'd really have liked to see the game change where it counts just a little bit more than it has, though I do appreciate that we all grow up at different speeds.

I will certainly play the story to completion and am actually enjoying it quite a bit. One day I'll be able to fully articulate my thoughts on changing around the games you once loved. Until then, apologies if I came across as a bit heavy handed with my opinions; I'm just scrambling around in the dark at the minute.

Edited by Brodehouse

I actually have been playing a lot of GTA as a city life simulator. Going for walks through the ghetto, through the hills. It's actually better than real life because I can walk around without getting tired, looking at all the buildings, the shops, trees, graffiti, cars, art installations and I don't have to deal with other people and their stupid bullshit.

Helps that you get a good soundtrack for doing so.

Posted by Demoskinos

@mmmman: Here's the thing I think you're looking at it wrong because the thrill of the violence and subsequent high-speed cop chases are exactly what they are selling you. Its a vehicle for people who are fans of crime drama to live out every big action scene they've ever seen in a movie in the same way Call of Duty is a absolute parody of how the real military operates. Its never supposed to be anything else at its core. Everything else in the world is set dressing to facilitate those scenarios. Which is why im saying if you're interests more in world exploration and other activities you're simply barking up the wrong tree here. Which is fine because tastes and all but at its core GTA has never been anything else besides the shootouts and cop chases. They have just done a good job at being better world builders over time.

Posted by Demoskinos

@hailinel: Im not going to tell you how to play the game but I think everyone is doing a disservice to themselves if they dont allow themselves some measure of chaos. The physics engines are super fun to play around with and more than ever I think the feedback you get from the world makes it more fun to do. Never felt the compulsion to do that in Vice City or other past games because there were always so many restrictions. Also, judging by your response and how you've ignored the series for so long Im going to say the game probably just isn't for you. I finished up last night 100% after 90 hours. Enjoyed every single moment. From the frustrating failures, to the mundane collecting to the (for me) highly engaging story. So I can't say I agree with any of the problems you have with the game but hey, at least you tried it.

Posted by MonkeyKing1969

It is interesting what you say about Tonya (the tow truck drivers girlfriend) because I think she is not as stereotypical or broad as you make out. She is a crack head, she is messed up, but she is also the quietest and most patient "teacher" of Franklin that game gives him.

SPOILERS
I won't spoil the game for you really, nor could I because much of what I will say is subtext. When we meet Franklin and his family/friends were are supposed to identify with Franklin. Were supposed to think Larmar is a fool, even a dangerous fool. We're supposed to think his aunt is a bitch. We are supposed to think his girlfriend is a snob and his childhood friends are drug addicts who lives have gone wrong. But here is the deal, teh game only show later. Lamar is an idiot but he never stops having Franlin's back and just wants a tiny bit of respect. Franklin aunt isn't some thug, not a criminal like her nephew, she is trying to better herself. Tonya is a crack head, but her and her boyfriend have HONEST work. And, Franklin's ex-girlfiend is right Franklin want to take the easy way to the point of kicking people out of his life make that dream come faster.

But the reality is Franklin is the the one in the wrong. Franklin isn't dumb but he is too willing to take the easy way out in all things. Easy money, easy life, and easy friendships to keep or break. He could go to college, become legitimate, and work for what he gets; but he willingly becomes a worse thief, a hit man, and at times a terrorist. He could value the scathing evaluation his aunt give give him to NOT dishonors his mother by being a thug. He could learn even from a crack head who at least has a legitimate job that is more honorable than what he does.

As i said out all all the people telling Franklin to look at himself and learn, Tonya is the most patient. She admits she has messed up, but she is proud of teh values she does have. She is flawed, but she values things Franklin does not - family, friends, and working hard for what you have.


As for the rest of what you say; I have to agree with you that the game is too violent. I think much of the violence and cynicism takes away from the story without adding much at all. There is actual subtlety to all the characters and their stories, but what the game puts out front is the violence. The biggest example is Trevor who has reason enough for his anger, work choices, current friends and current enemies...but they they make him what amount to a serial killer too...but they never pay that off ever or explain why. In fact, the cold blooded killing of people not trying to kill him are never explained well or give any context. Those killings are there to be shocking, not to be investigated or ever tied to the story with any meaning.

JMO

Posted by MMMman

@monkeyking1969: Those are really good points about Tonya that really didn't resonate with me. As a character it seems like she's played for laughs specifically, as you say, to make Franklin's desire to leave South Central appear justified and right. It didn't strike me though, that underneath all the squealing and stereotyping that she actually embodies everything Franklin isn't willing to submit to; like you say, working hard and hones, and sticking by those who've had your back in the past. Thanks for pointing out my oversight.

Does she pop up again after the first few jobs, or is that if for her?

Edited by Brodehouse

The secret behind stereotypes is that they actually exist, thus providing people with the knowledge to recognize them as a stereotype. There are people like Tonya out there (when I worked retail I dealed with them, the only thing different was the accent), and they act like Tonya. Actually, Tonya acts like a polished intellectual version of people like Tonya. I actually liked how they handled Tonya or Franklin's aunt or Trevor's gang of idiots or Michael's family because they actually do behave as people do, just compressed into chunks small enough to get across in 3 minute drives.

That scene where Franklin's aunt and her friend go 'spirit walking' while spouting ridiculous Oprah self-help nonsense is a little on-the-nose, but I know those exact people and I've heard that exact nonsense. I related to that scene.

Edited by Alexander

@mmmman I have yet to play the game as I'm holding out for that (inevitable...right?) PC release but I think the PC version of IV illustrates best that there is a large section of the audience who enjoy the game primarily for how it can imitate reality (to a point). Mods that allow you to issue tickets as a traffic cop, that allow you to hold car keys... yes car keys, the ENB mods that aim for photorealism, a carefully modelled Mac Book Pro for your pad, and it's all so one can not do a whole lot, being "boring" and getting as close as is comfortable to reality. That is I believe a big part of what Rockstar intended, the mods allow people to take it further. I say as comfortable though because I wouldn't equate the pedestrian version of GTA you and many others like to play with reality when they remain removed from each other. GTA discards a lot of what would make driving around London an actual bore/bad time, namely £/litre, congestion charging, traffic, lack of parking and fines that mean something. Driving in GTA is made to be a pleasure and while people find pleasure in different things I doubt many want to "play" the stationary experience of Warren Street, 5:30pm on a Thursday.

Posted by MMMman

@brodehouse: Oh yeah, of course, stereotypes do hold a little nugget of truth about their subject. Tonya was the one that struck me as a little mean, whereas the rest of the supporting cast thus far haven't really bothered me. I think it was the combination of her voice and the explicit sexual-favour stuff that put me off the most and, as @monkeyking1969 kindly reminded me, blinkered me to the fact she is played pretty straight in reality.
I genuinely really like Franklin's aunt, probably because he's the only one who sees her in a particularly negative light. She is talked to in some pretty disrespectful ways by other characters - yes, problematic - but she seems to let it all wash over her for the most part. (I do hope nothing horrible happens to her as the rest of the story progresses.)
The GTA games are always such ensemble pieces that it would be impossible to convey such a huge number of characters without ever falling back on forms of generalisation. And besides, the series has never really dealt in characters the player was able to fully like anyway. It is strange though, I know these things have been a part of the series since it went 3D, but only now have they really started to rub on me.

Posted by MMMman

@alexander: Oh no, London traffic in rush hour is horrible; I'm exclusively a tube commuter. Having been stuck on the roads for hours at a time though, I'm glad Rockstar keep improving (they seem to, anyway) the way cars and traffic work in the games. In V the roads always look full, though it really isn't a chore to weave in and out of queues and overtake other vehicles. It certainly seems to be a step above IV, which I though was a bit too much like driving on real city streets. I think the whole 'toy box world' aspect of V is second to none and I'm having a really good time seeing what the world has to offer, not sure whether an accurately modelled macbook would make it more enjoyable though. That crazy PC scene is something I'll never get to taste unfortunately, at least not in the foreseeable future.

Posted by Sammo21

I never understand people who think that Grand Theft Auto protagonists are "anti-heroes". They are not anti-heroes, they are villains who just happen to the be protagonists in the story we are experiencing. You have always played a sociopathic douchebag in Grand Theft Auto. I think people just can't handle a sociopath who is now written with some sense of depth (even if its failed). People try and tell me Niko was written well, but he wasn't. His introduction was handled well. Other than that he was the typical GTA sociopath who is willing to do whatever he is asked to do no matter how violent or "over the line".